When the place went dark, my wife and I weren’t really startled. We were expecting it to be honest. I think everyone was. The news was filled with reports of 90 mph winds gusting to 110 mph, or some such lunacy, barreling straight for us. It’s a storm, it’s New York. When you hear that, you cover up, do what you can to protect yourself from the storm. You prepare and hunker down, unless you want to make the news with your untimely demise. Or are scared, or stupid, or crazy, any one being as good as the other in those circumstances.
I knew I was safe. Brick building, second floor, high on top of a hill, we were expecting wind and lots of it. Rain, and lots of it. News coverage, and lots of it.
The first that we heard from the storm itself, wind and rain in great heaving gouts rather than people talking about it, the actual heart of the storm showed up sometime after sunrise. The storm had followed all predictions about it’s path and exceed it’s strength predictions. I had gone running at around 11:30 am, and at that point the storm was hundreds of miles away. Sandy, the irrationally named storm (why we use names for these things I have no idea) was dumping tons of rain on the area and the winds 10 hours before expected landfall were gusting over 40 mph.
No worries. I’m a New Yorker. I’ll be fine, it was too early for anything to happen just yet. 40 mph wind gusts don’t impress anyone.
We have all our supplies. Flashlights? Check. Batteries? Check. Non-perishable food? Check. Go bag? Nope. But a man who knows what goes in one, knows where it is well enough to find it in the dark, and can when pressed run a sub 7 minute mile, can make one in less than 2 minutes. Plus, I’m on a hill. No worries unless the tree crashes on the house. Fingers crossed about that at that point.
The first real blow from the storm came several hours later, though the wind was raging and rain falling well before. The first of the winds that shook the house came. It howled mightily, and the rain fell. Rain and wind don’t care about people, that’s what I was thinking.
But, it was actually a tree that fell up the street that shook the house. The storm didn’t care about that tree. Or the one that it cracked and dropped on power lines a stones throw from my front door. Or the two a few blocks away that took out a telephone pole that stood between them and sent live power lines careening to the ground. Or the other ones in my neighborhood that went shortly thereafter. Wind is wind, and this wind was mighty.
The blue lightning that lit the night was eerie, and surprisingly silent. The sky lit with what looked like hundreds of such strikes. Watching the skies after dusk, they were the only way to see actual cloud patterns. Wait for such a strike and you’d see cloud patterns as opposed to the simple grey sameness that the storm brought to the area.
It was only later that we learned that the blue lightning was in all likelihood exploding transformers that were taking out electricity in neighborhoods, one at a time.
The light in front of my house was the harbinger of darkness. The small plain light on the front lawn, the single bulb on the small metal pole tottered helplessly and flickered a number of times before the wind blew it out like a child blows out birthday candles.
And then it all went. Around 9:30 pm as I recall. Might be a little off there.
I was expecting complete darkness, but it wasn’t complete. First one, then another, then a few more houses lit to life with small bouncing lights that first danced crazily across rooms as if dangling on ropes before becoming steady, and aiming out of windows to see if everyone else had gone dark. Between that and the (to us silent) transformer explosions and the moon behind the clouds, we could actually see what was going on.
A few brave souls went out in the storm to see how much of the neighborhood had gone out. My brave soul also has intelligence, and decided to bravely stay inside and listen to the radio. Trees are nice, but not when they are threatening to fall. I don’t wanna do that dance no matter how well I can see them. My head is hard, but not that hard.
A police car came to the neighborhood. We saw the lights while sitting on the couch listening to reporters tell us how the storm was going when we could look out the window and find out easily enough for ourselves, that being what reporters do, entertain and enliven our lazy and curious lives. When we got to the window, the car was parked right in front of our house. One officer got out, yellow tape in hand. He took the tape and threw it haphazardly around the pole across the street, and then walked across the street. Not finding another pole there to tie it to, he broke it off and let it flap in the breeze. He then went to the back of his cruiser and grabbed 2 orange cones and put them in the street.
After a moment he rode down the street to get a close up view of the downed tree, he did a 180 and drove away. There being a few hundred trees down in the area, and lots of tape to toss across streets to let non-wary drivers know that the law of gravity was in charge this night, and it had a thing for tree killing.
Cell phones worked for a bit, then died. Didn’t bother me, I’m not dependent on the damnable things. But it was one complaint I heard more often, both from my wife and others out on the street the next day was loss of cell service. Verizon? Sprint? Didn’t matter what carrier you had. 3g? 4g(if you can call it that?) iPhone? Blackberry? Of no consequence. There was No g. It seemed curious and troubling to me that the loss of a phone was larger in some peoples minds than the damage that others had suffered.
Or maybe I read them wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.
As the night wore on, the winds died down slowly and the temperatures began to slowly drop. Several times during the storm we sat at the window, with it wide open. Silly? Yes. But what is done is done, and doing something safely once gives the air of safety it needs for future doing. The wind didn’t seem an impediment at the time, but the chill became one. Especially when the thought of potentially not having heat for days on end came to the fore and stopped that silliness.
Stories came in of walls of water sweeping in, inundating the whole city. Battery park becoming part of the East river. Fire ravaging an entire neighborhood in Queens. Stories of survival, arrested surfers, water in the tunnels and people massing together to make sure everything came out OK.
Houses are wrecked, trees are down, power out in many places. Barring the unlucky or crazy few, almost everyone came out unscathed. A prayer for the dead and dying is in order, as well as for those who are picking up the pieces. And maybe more than a prayer for them who are picking up what mother nature dropped on them. If you walk by someone who looks like they need help clearing up debris, stop and give them a hand.
We’re human, we do for each other, it’s what we do. So let’s do this.
Power came back just before my wife and I called it a night at 11:16 pm October 30th, after only 26 hours in the dark, when we were expecting to be dark for over a week. Heat is up and running as well. Warm and happy after only one cold dreary night when several were expected is a truly great feeling. It’s greatly appreciated. A hearty thank you to the people at Con Ed and everyone else busting their asses through the storm and it’s aftermath.
That’s it from here, America. G’night. A second post later perhaps… i’ll see.